A Reuters article highlighted an emerging trend in Corporate America: get seasoned professionals with experience and credibility – even if it means bringing them out of retirement and placing them on a contract. The article cites the actions of Nordstrom, Xerox, General Motors, and Ford as companies that have brought back former professionals to senior roles to shore up lagging businesses.
After a decade of “young is better and less expensive” when hiring authorities looked for youth and vigor over experience and perspective, expectations have changed.
How can you position yourself as an experienced professional who has the Right Stuff?
Honestly, it’s still a balancing act. While age and experience are valued, successful professionals combine their expertise with the energy and creativity need in today’s labor market. The following are a few recommendations to bring your candidacy to the forefront.
On your resume...
Eliminate dates older than 10 years ago, you want to showcase what you’ve been accomplishing recently and how you’ve kept current with marketplace trends. What you did that was “hot” 30 years ago, may not be relevant to today’s hiring decision-makers.
Draft a value proposition statement to present in addition to your resume. This document focuses exclusively on your major accomplishments, savings achieved, and projects led. For senior level professionals, a value proposition statement also gives you the flexibility to be considered as an independent consultant, should the company not have a full-time position immediately available.
Do not put the date of your college graduation. It dates you, when all that matters is the degree.
Keep the resume to 2 pages, highlighting only the accomplishments and experiences most relevant to the roles you’re pursuing today.
Target what you’re going for, and talk only about those things. You may have done terrific things in the past, but some of those experiences may not be in demand now. Sell the employers only what they want.
Focus on the recent past, using examples from the past 5 years, rather than from 30 years ago.
Demonstrate you’re “with it.” Whether it’s your familiarity with new technology or your passion for yoga, show you stay on top of what’s hot.
Show excitement. Whatever your age, employers look for energy and enthusiasm. Many professionals in the 55 to 70 age group were taught to be so modest, it gets in the way of their job search, which requires active promotion and salesmanship.
When structuring your job search...
Network with people in your age group. Determine what their company thinks are the most valuable attributes and experiences, then sell that.
Focus on organizations that value your expertise. This requires you to be flexible in the types of organizations and roles you pursue. Nonprofits, for example, especially value executives with business experience, though you may need to be flexible on salary.
In salary negotiations...
Focus on the value you bring. Employers are looking for the biggest impact for their investment, whether from a top-notch 58-year old or a less experienced 35-year old.
Blast through any remaining preconceptions of a “retirement age.” Older professionals in the job market used to get stalled by employers’ expectation that everyone would retire at 60 or 62. In their eyes, a 55-year old professional had limited potential value because they would be with the company only a few years. With more and more professionals working later in life, employers now expect and in some cases actively encourage seasoned professionals to join their team.